A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Buy Danish

It is certainly Saudi Arabia's right to try and pressure Denmark to apologize by boycotting Danish goods. It is also certainly the right of Norwegians, as well as my right, and yours as well, to tell Saudi Arabia to go bite themselves by partaking of Danish goods. Having a neighbor who is a full-blown Dane, I get to partake of Danish cuisine several times a year, and the majority of the food and drink is excellent. I recommend anything made with marzipan and the Chokolade Pålæg Lys in particular. If you drink any of this, however, make sure that it is REALLY cold or you are REALLY drunk already.

Oh, and does anyone else find it laughable that various Imams were outraged by the blasphemy of these cartoons, but they have no trouble whatsoever with these? Laughable, yes, but sadly, terribly unsurprising.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Staying the Course

I have issues with George Bush and his administration. Despite Mojo's detailed and thorough defense of issues like expanded Executive power and prisoner abuse/torture, I think Bush tends to be tone-deaf, cronyistic and unwilling to admit mistakes. That said, about the worst thing we could do right now, in my not-so-humble opinion, is abruptly leave Iraq. Only slightly better than that would be to set a firm time table for withdrawal. Both approaches would be idiotic and counter-productive.

So imagine my joy at reading this article. Honestly, I do not understand the point of these referendums. They are not only a waste of time, energy and money, but also potentially demoralizing for our troops. On top of that, the actual question asked often doesn't even make sense. The nutter group in Racine is requesting the following language:

"We call for the immediate cessation of military action in Iraq and the expedient withdrawal of all U.S. fighting forces, including private contractors, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves."
Immediate cessation of military action? So, even if the troops are there they shouldn't, oh what's the word... do anything? Just sit in their quarters and watch the show their sudden absence creates? Maybe fix a power grid, but under no circumstances shoot at anyone or try to rid the city of terrorists?

Expedient withdrawal. Well, if the troops aren't going to actually do anything, I suppose it would be expedient to withdraw immediately, but even if the troops--and private contractors-- are just there to train the Iraq police and military and continue to rebuild the infrastructure an expedient withdrawal may not occur for many months or even years. Expedient means appropriate to a purpose, not as quickly as possible.

What a bunch of maroons. Want some reasoning on why leaving now would be a horrible idea and why staying the course is a really good plan? Well, then trot yourself on over to Orson Scott Card's semi-regular column and have a nice read. He sums it up really well.


So Sorry, Old Bean

We've all had bad days. We've all tripped or stumbled or fumbled and broken something important or rare or of tremendous sentimental value. Next time you do that, just remember it could be worse. You could be this guy:
A clumsy visitor to a Cambridge museum has destroyed a set of priceless 300-year-old Chinese vases after tripping up on his shoelace, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The three Qing vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had stood on a windowsill at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, southeast England, for at least 40 years.
Which, naturally, takes me back to one of the Pink Panther movies in which Peter Sellers, for reasons I forget, has a metal glove on his hand with which he pulverizes a vase on a pedastal. The shocked owner (curator?) gasps, "That was a priceless Ming Vase!" to which Sellers replies, in his over-the-top French accent, "Not any more."

And if you're having a bad day at work, remember that it could be worse. You could be one of the museum workers charged with reassembling the vases:

"They are in very, very small pieces but we are determined to put them back together," said the museum's assistant director Margaret Greeves.

Heh. And you thought those 3-D foam puzzles were challenging.

And as a side note, as much as I like Steve Martin and Kevin Kline, why did they sign on for this? The trailers look dreadfully unfunny-- and the last attempt to resurrect this series didn't exactly blow the doors off the box office, bringing in a "whopping" $2.5 million.

I mean, when one of your big selling points is that a film is from the director of Cheaper By the Dozen (Shawn Levy-- anyone? No?) you might want to rethink the whole project.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday's List: Happy Birthday, Milwaukee!

Milwaukee is 160 years old this year. Well done, well done-- just think of how much beer and how many brats have been made, and consumed, here in 16 decades of existence. In honor of their 160 years of existence, today's list is the top things to do in Milwaukee:

25) Go ice skating. Any time of the year. And maybe see some Olympic caliber speed skaters while you're doing it.

24) Tour Milwaukee's historic churches. Founded by God-fearing Germans, Italians, Poles and other ethnic groups, Milwaukee's skyline is marked by many, many church steeples.

23) Hang out on campus. Relive your college days, read the school newspapers, ogle some young college students, or play hacky sack. Nostalgia, bay-bee. Milwaukee has several universities and colleges to choose from.

22) Gamble a little. A small taste of Vegas in downtown (well, almost) Milwaukee. Please note-- I suggest you gamble a little. Slots, craps, blackjack, poker, bingo-- it's all here.

21) Shop. Okay, not my favorite thing in the world, but some folks like it, so it's at least worth mentioning. And if you go to quirky places like the 3rd Ward or the East side, it can be kind of fun. Of course, if you prefer malls, there are a number of those as well.

20) Go to a festival. Summerfest (see below) is the Big Gig, but there are festivals in Milwaukee all throughout the year.

19) Hike and Bike. There are a number of great bike trails within, or close to, Milwaukee, and the County Park System maintains excellent hiking trails at all of their parks.

18) Pub Crawl-- Walker's Point. All types of bars oddly situated in one of Milwaukee's more industrialized areas. Neighborhood pubs, college hangouts, dance clubs and gay bars. There's a little bit of everything in Walker's Point-- plus the Allen-Bradley clock towering over everything.

17) Visit State Fair Park. Ideally, during the Wisconsin State Fair (in which case-- do NOT miss out on the Cream Puffs), but even in the off-season it's worth a visit.

16) Golf! The Milwaukee County Park System golf courses are excellent, ranging from pitch and putts to PGA Tour caliber. Add to that the fact that there are Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed courses less than an hour from Milwaukee, and you have a golfers paradise-- at least from April to October.

15) Take a walking tour of the city. Tons of history and remarkable architecture in Milwaukee, so pick the tour you like and spend a day roaming the town.

14) Visit the Milwaukee Public Library. Okay, I might be a little biased here, but the central branch is in a magnificent building, and it home to numerous special exhibits and collections.

13) Take in a game at the Bradley Center. The Bucks are playing well, Marquette is the surprise team of the Big East, and the Milwaukee Admirals are playoff contenders in the AHL.

12) Get a little culture! For the size of the city, Milwaukee has a remarkable amount of cultural entertainment, including many theaters, an orchestra, an opera and a ballet.

11) Visit the Mitchell Park domes. Particularly in winter, when the glorious blooms and tropical interior atmosphere will help get rid of the January blahs. The model train display is also quite good.

10) Pub Crawl--Water Street. The downtown social/drinking/party people place to be. All different types of places to go, from hole-in-the-wall dives to upscale venues. If you have time to wander a bit from Water, do pop into the Safehouse, which is about as campy and cheesy as a bar is capable of getting.

9) Go to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Some very nice collections for a city our size, and the museum has wings!

8) Go to Miller Park. Ideally to see a Brewers game, but even if you can't do that, do go see the stadium-- it's worth the trip.

7) Eat! There are a boatload of great restaurants in Milwaukee-- virtually any ethnic food you could want, prices ranging from cheap to quite pricey, and, of course, plenty of beer, cheese and sausage.

6) Pub Crawl-- North and/or Brady Streets on the East side of Milwaukee. There are a lot of bars in Milwaukee, as you might have gathered from my inclusion of three distinct pub crawls in this list. While on this one, make sure to stop into the Landmark-- which is underneath the vintage Oriental Theatre-- and play a few games of bumper pool. Or bowl. Or play darts with actual metal tips. Or all of the above.

5) See the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo. An excellent zoo, especially for the size of the metropolitan area supporting it. They have upgraded the facilities for the animals and visitors significantly over the last decade.

4) Take a brewery tour. It is Milwaukee, after all. Plus, there are three different ones to choose from.

3) Visit the Milwaukee Public Museum. Yes, it has been plagued by horrendous mismanagement of late, but it is still a remarkable place-- if visiting with kiddies, this one probably vaults to #1. The Vatican display coming in February, 2006 promises to be phenomenal.

2) Go to the lakefront. Milwaukee has a wonderful, largely undeveloped lakefront where you can bike, rollerblade, play volleyball, swim (assuming the water is clean enough-- no guarentees, I'm afraid) or just watch people.

1) Go to Summerfest. It is the largest music festival in the world and it happens right on the lakefront. There is beer, tons of food, all different kinds of music, and it's still pretty cheap. What more could you ask for?

Happy Birthday Milwaukee!


Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Ugliest Web Site Ever

Is here. OMG, how does she actually edit that site without going blind? Honestly I could not read that pink lettering for more than a sentence or two without my eyes bugging out on me. The Confederate flag background is nice, too.

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CWD: More Dangerous Than We Thought?

There's a lot of deer in Wisconsin, and a lot of deer hunters. About four years ago, there was a mild panic related to Chronic Wasting Disease-- a nasty little disease that appeared to be fatal in deer 100% of the time, and was hard to detect early in it's development. The panic related to people eating the brains, marrow, or nervous system tissue of afflicted deer and contracting CWD themselves-- which, experts believe, would result in a death similar to that caused by mad cow disease.

It hasn't happened yet, so maybe the whole thing is overblown, but the answer-- in addition to killing all infected deer and quarantining deer who are near infected deer-- was for people not to eat the bits that might be infected. Not a huge sacrifice, as most hunters eat the venison of deers, but not many eat the brains. I'm not ever sure why you'd want to-- though venison is a reasonably tasty meat.

Comes now word that the prions that are feared to cause CWD aren't found just in the brain and nervous system. It seems they can be found in regular old muscle tissue-- which is the stuff that we do usually eat. Sigh. Had some venison jerky over the Christmas break-- so wish me luck, and if I start writing weird things-- I mean really weird things, not just my usual drivel--contact the Wisconsin DNR at once.

I don't seriously think that there is any risk to eating venison-- but it is something worth keeping tabs on, just in case.


Darwin Award Nominee

It's early in the year, so her accomplishment may get overshadowed by other, even dumber, people who manage to do really stupid things to get themselves dead, but Beverly Gibbs has set the bar fairly high, I'd say. Her boyfriend-- whom Beverly was attempting to wake up by flicking lighted matches at him-- is not eligible as he did not die. But he should get at least an honorable mention for attempting to "drag out of a door of the house" and, in the process, setting other parts of the house on fire.

Now, should I take pride that she's local to my area, feel shame that someone so stupid is from my local area, or just be glad that somebody this stupid is no longer around in my local area where she might have caused me or mine injury?

Will Hamas Become Civilized?

I'd say the odds are pretty long, but you never know-- sometimes it's a lot easier to agitate from the sidelines, and once you actually get the power you claim to crave, it becomes a lot harder to actually govern. Suddenly you have to compromise and cajole and attempt to work with those with whom you disagree.

The old, Be careful what you wish for-- you might get it cliche. Of course, as President Bush noted, if your "party" platform is the elimination of Israel as country, then you are not a partner in peace. Pretty much, you're just a bunch of barbarian thugs.

We'll see. Fingers crossed, but hopes not very high.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Look Into the Deranged Left

I feel for Cindy Sheehan, I do, but the woman is almost clinically deranged. She needs some serious, serious therapy, and globetrotting the world and reopening her wound over and over while under the glare of an extended fifteen minutes of fame is not going to help. It merely reaffirms her already deeply held paranoias and feelings of persecution, while bringing her personal torment and loss over the death of her son out into the open as a political playing piece.

Anyway, enough of me. Check out Cindy Sheehan's interview with Irish far-left writer Ronan Sheehan, which appeared recently in the far-left "journal" CounterPunch. I found Cindy's second to last statement particularly revealing:
And about Bill Clinton . . . . You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don't understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it's been held by a long line of monsters. We don't have to support our administrations to love our country. True patriots of my country dissent when our country's doing something so wrong.
Just so we're clear here-- Cindy Sheehan, one of the left's most outspoken anti-war protesters, is of the opinion that most, if not all, of our presidents have been monsters. And my family wonders why I've wandered off the liberal reservation.


I'm a Mazda RX-8

I'm sporty, yet practical, and I have a style of my own. I like to have fun, and I like to bring friends along for the ride, but when it comes time for everyday chores, I'm willing to do your part.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Interesting that they only do sportscars... a goodly number of folks I know would probably be trucks, if that were an option.

I Wish I Could Be Happy About This

There is currently a bill in the Wisconsin Senate, SB 452, that would allow UW faculty and academic staff (not the maintenance/facilities people or others that are already part of a union) collective bargaining rights with the state. Effectively, it would make me part of a union-- some sort of affiliated agency to the American Federation of Teachers, I think.

Thing is, I generally think unions have worn out their usefulness, and I particularly dislike professionals who feel they need to unionize. Are their issues between the faculty/academic staff and the UW Administration? Absolutely. But I don't really believe collective bargaining is the answer-- we're professionals, so let's find a less adversarial way to deal with those differences. As with world affairs, sometimes war is necessary, but as with world affairs, it is a last resort, and anything that makes a situation more adversarial should only be undertaken under extreme circumstances.

And what the heck is Dale Schultz doing proposing the legislation? He's a Republican-- isn't he supposed to hate labor? All very strange. All very much not to my liking.

OTIT: The Sales Pitch

Received a promotional brochure from a publisher, something that happens quite frequently for librarians with collection development responsibilities. This particular brochure was touting a new DVD series on the life of Ralph Bunche, the first person of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1950), and a huge proponent of the United Nations. All accounts I can find seem to indicate that Bunche was a remarkable man who's achievements deserve greater recognition.

So why, given his tremendous career, and a wide variety of quotes to choose from, did the PR release from the publisher highlight this one:
To suggest that war can prevent war is a base play on words and a despicable form of warmongering.
Which, in my opinion, is not only crap, it is dangerous crap. Two possibilities-- the publisher believes that Bunche's anti-war rhetoric is the most significant part of his legacy, or the publisher believes that faculty will find Bunche's anti-war rhetoric to be the most compelling part of his legacy. In either case, it's hard to make a case that there isn't a bias in the ivory towers of our land.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

About Time

I watched a wonderful pbs documentary on John Adams last night, part of the American Experience series, and near the end of the show it emphasized Adam's concern that his huge contributions to the establishment of the country would be lost to posterity. And for far too long, that worry was prescient, as history has emphasized the contributions of Washington and Jefferson, while treating Adams as a bit of an after thought. Case in point are the monuments in our capitol city.

Washington got one, plus a whole city (state, too, for that matter) named for him. Fair enough, he was the pivotal figure of the American Revolution. There very likely wouldn't be a United States of America without George. Jefferson got one, and that's okay too-- Jefferson was the wordsmith that helped shape what America would become with the Declaration of Independence, and his presidency included the doubling of the country. Hamilton gets the $10 bill, which is appropriate since we likely would've strangled under the heavy debt created by the War of the Revolution if not for his plan to establish a national bank/currency. Franklin gets the $100 bill, which is probably not enough given how prominent a figure he was during Revolutionary times, but now, 200+ years later, you do hear how "it's all about the Benjamins."

Besides Washington and Jefferson, seven other presidents have statues and/or monuments of some sort in Washington, D.C. Sure, Lincoln is easy, and maybe you'd get FDR as well, but the other five? Take your best guess then check the comments section and see how you did.

John Adams, however, who was on a par with Jefferson and Franklin and only a small notch below Washington in terms of his claims to being a Founding Father, has gotten pretty much bupkis. No formal recognition in D.C., no currency with his profile on it, no universities (at least James Madison, another major figure in the founding of the U.S., albeit one that joined a bit after the Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams cadre, got a university). A few counties here or there.

Thankfully, there is an ongoing effort to get a monument to the entire Adam's family, John, Abilgail and John Quincy, erected in D.C. In 2001, President Bush signed the okey dokey to acquire land on or near the Mall in D.C., and since that time various groups having been raising money to make the monument a reality. Additionally, the old Suffolk County Courthouse was lavishly refurbished in 2002 and renamed the John Adams Courthouse.

So, things are turning around for the fiery old man from Quincy who, in many ways, embodied the best of what America has always stood for-- ambition, honor, independence, devotion, frugality, and staunch defense of the rule of law and the rights of individuals.

Oh, and one of the crowning illustrations of how life is often much unlikely than fiction, I still find it truly amazing that BOTH Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the DAY from the founding of the country. If a scriptwriter wrote something like that into a movie or TV series, people would role their eyes and think, "Right, THAT would happen. Give me a break."

In this case, however, no break is necessary-- it really did happen.


Every Now and Then

SNL is still funny. Kudos to Drew for not being a thin-skinned Hollywood primadonna like, say, Tom Cruise. It does make you wonder what she was thinking, wearing this to a major awards show, though.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I Would've Predicted That

My pick for the NFL Championship round games would've been Pittsburgh and Seattle. I did not write them down here because I did not want to jinx either team (I am 0-4 on Sunday picks on this blog). But that's who I would've picked-- honestly.

The only disappointing thing about being right was that neither game was much fun to watch. The Steelers took the air out of the Denver crowd with authority, and their defense had Jake the Snake Plummer completely discombobulated. Meanwhile, the crowd in Seattle was rocking throughout, and Jake not the Snake Delhomme was also completely discombobulated. Not a good day to be a Jake.

I think the Super Bowl will be good, though. Big Ben versus Matt the Mouth, Cowher vs. Holmgren, Alexander vs. Bettis/Parker. Good stuff, good stuff. The two best teams in the NFL? Maybe not, but close, and the two best teams down the stretch, which is when you need your team to excel.

And then the long cold days begin until the NCAA Championships.


Kobe Bryant racked up 81 points last night against the Raptors. 81! Just to give you some sort of perspective on that, so far this season there have been 98 times when an entire team scored less than 81 points. 13 additional times this season an entire team scored exactly as many points as Kobe did last night. Even wilder? Nine times this season a team has won scoring less points as a team than Kobe did last night.

Unreal. Michael Jordan's high game is 69. Kobe surpassed that by nearly 20%. I am not a big Kobe Bryant fan-- in fact, I don't really like him much at all-- but you simply have to say "Wow, what an amazing, incredible, phenomenal performance."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Interesting Proposal

From James Carville and Paul Begala of all people (hat tip: temporary costello). A way to end the ridiculous corruption and disastrous effects of lobby money on Congress, the government and America as a whole.

I am certainly a big fan of eliminating the "suck up" factor in modern politics (in both directions-- politicians sucking up to money, and money sucking up to politicians). I am also a big fan of term limits for Congress, and maybe even for the Supreme Court-- people like Ted Kennedy and Ted Stevens (maybe it's something with the name Ted?) should've served 12 years and then been sent politely back to their domiciles. How likely is it that anything but the status quo will occur when you have senators and representatives serving for 30+ years? Between them, the Teddies have been senators for 80 years. How much pork do you think those two gentlemen have managed to bring home to Alaska and Massachusetts in that time? Quite a lot, I should imagine-- but I'd also put big money that they've gotten far more pork in the past 20 years than they did in their first 20 years of service.

Tom Cruise: On a Roll Lately

Check his pants for butter. In addition to being a complete control freak nutbar in regards to his relationship with Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise has been pulling down numerous awards of late:

Cruise used to be likeable-- he had sort of an every guy vibe going on, and he didn't mind a little self-depreciating humor from time to time. What in tarnation happened to the guy that he is now just a nutbag prick?


Two new folks checking out the undoubtedly excellent observations, commentations and disturbed gyrations of the Libertarian Librarian.

Here's what my nephew, SGT Nick Hitt had to say in the comments area for my post that included pictures from, and of, him:
Hey. My name is SGT Nicholas Hitt and this is my uncle's Blogspot. I thank you all that support the troops over here. I find it rough some times, but it always makes me more motavated to hear that people back home are backing us. It's the American people that make or break us.
Keep that in mind folks-- it makes a big difference to our brave men and women in the armed services when we do-- or don't-- support them and what they are trying to accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The other new arrival is Joshua, aka Raolin, one of the small cadre of talented writers John H. and I worked with several years ago-- good to hear from you Josh!:

Not the only one; I managed to stumble across this little nook myself. Howdy, folks.

Raolin Darksbane.

I hope you both stop in from time to time and offer us your insights. Nick, if there's anything in particular you want me to post-- personal observations, pics, thoughts on Iraq and its people, whatever-- send it along in an email and/or comment and I'll be happy to share it with all two of my readers!

Actually, for reasons unknown, my readership is up, which is cool. Thanks to everyone who stops in, and a special thanks to those who leave comments-- feedback is always a welcome thing for a writer, even when it isn't always positive.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tired Friday Musings

Not really feeling like tackling anything heavy or requiring much detailed analysis. So, I think I'll look at the Democrats strategy for taking back Congress and the White House, bah-da-bump! Seriously, just lightweight stuff, like Bush's solution to the health care crisis. bah-da-bing!

I guess that's it for now. Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Sobering Thought

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting, and scary, post about Iran and the dangers of their getting nuclear weapons. I'm not sure what we can do about it-- the ideal would be an invasion similar to what we did in Iraq, but that really isn't practical in a political or manpower sense right now. I'd like to be reassured that U.N. sanctions would have an effect, but given the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq, I'm afraid I have only slightly more than zero, zip, nada, none, zilch confidence in the U.N. right now.

And the fact that Russia, itself slipping rapidly back into totalitarianism, is a strong supporter of Iran cannot be a good thing.



Shuffle Play Weirdness

When you play your digital songs on shuffle, strange things can happen-- particularly when you have a lot of music from bands like Pink Floyd or Genesis that tended to make concept albums where one song frequently flows right into the next. Two of my strangest shuffle play occurences I've had recently: Bat out of Hell segueing into Eruption (just for the strangeness, and yet oddly resonate, of over the top '70s production with the stripped down rawness of Eddie Van Halen wailing on guitar) and Pink Floyd's Don't Leave Me Now merging into Pink Floyd's Pigs (Three Different Ones).

Don't Leave Me Now ends with the sound of TVs being smashed in, but the last of the four TVs is at the beginning of the next track rather than at the end of Don't Leave Me Now. Pigs starts with an echoing pig oink. So, instead of Boof (sound of TV being smashed), Boof, Boof, pause, Boof, I got Boof, Boof, Boof, pause, Oink...oink... oink. Probably none of you care, but it was a really strange effect.

Any of you have any riveting shuffle play oddities to share with the class?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Movie Reviews

I don't get to very many first-release films these days-- two kids and various other obligations usually makes it difficult to impossible. Plus, movies are expensive. So, most of the films I see are on DVD or just regular old TV. Consequently, only one of these movie reviews is for a current film. Such is life.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

Very well done. I remember the book only vaguely, since the last time I read it was probably back in 3rd or 4th grade, so my expectations of its accuracy relative to the book were very minimal to non-existent. The cast was great-- particularly Edmund (Skandar Pevensie), the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy)-- and the CGI imagery was excellent without intruding into the story. The beauty of converting the Narnia stories to film, as contrasted with the Lord of the Rings, is that each volume is short (less than 200 pages) by today's standards. I was a little concerned that the battle scenes would be too intense for my 5-year-old son, but they did a good job of making the battles effective and intense without being gory or overy violent. I would strongly recommend the film.

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

All that an action/adventure movie should be. A solid, smartly written script, great believeable action, and an excellent cast. Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins are superb, Catherine Zeta Jones quite good (and very lovely) and Stuart Wilson also quite good as the evil, yet cultured, bad guy, Don Rafael. The combination of two incredibly charismatic actors in Hopkins and Banderas could have been a recipe for trouble, but the two play off each other nicely, and there is sufficient self-depreciating humor in the script to keep things fun. All recent action/adventure films that rely on massive chases and/or huge explosions should take note of this movie-- which has explosions and sword fights galore, but does not rely on them. Rather, the action complements the character interaction and, here's a bizarre concept, the plot. Highly recommended.

Vanilla Sky (2001)
A mess with your mind movie that keeps tweaking Tom Cruise's reality throughout the film until the conclusion where all is explained. Cruise is good, Penelope Cruz is very good, and Jason Lee is terrific as Cruise's best, pretty much only, friend. It took me nearly the whole film to figure out that he was Earl from My Name is Earl. Kurt Russel was a little off, to me, as the psychaitrist/father figure personage, and Cameron Diaz was just spooky as Cruise's girlfriend. I guess Diaz is supposed to be spooky, so maybe it was good acting, but I have to say that it seemed more like art reflecting life. Diaz is just... creepy these days. Anyway, the cinematography is appealing--, but the whole "what the hey is actually going on here" hook got old about half-way through the film. See it if you have some time to kill, but don't spend money renting it, or let it keep you from anything interesting or important.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Aw Crap

Damping my enthusiasm for the misfortunes of the Da Bears is the knowledge that Ted Thompson's controversial-- read, bone-headed-- decision to choose... err... who again? Oh yeah, Mike somebody or other would almost inevitably lead to the exiting of Jim Bates, the one truly good personnel move the Packers have made in recent years.

Bates took an underperforming, and yes under-talented, bunch of guys and turned them into a top-ten defense. Which is exactly the same thing he did in Miami. The other thing he did in Miami is fill-in as interim coach and finish with a 3-4 record. Unimpressive? Well, the guy he replaced (Dave Wannstedt) managed to field a 1-8 record with the same team. Three of the four losses were on the road, and one of the wins was against New England-- a team that lost only one other game that year.

Bates got the most out of what he had, could gameplan with the best of them (anybody that can gameplan with Bill Belichick and come out even or ahead is a good gameplanner), and already knew our system. Plus, he liked it here.

Perhaps Mike whatever his name is will turn out to be an okay coach, maybe even a good coach-- but I can state with reasonable certainty that we already had a good coach, maybe even a great coach, already in Green Bay!


Oh Happy Day!

The Bears lost, the Bears lost, the Bears lost. My house is close enough to Chicago, though still quite a bit closer to Milwaukee, that I get both Chicago and Milwaukee channels on my cable lineup. I very rarely listen to the Chicago news because a) I'm closer to Milwaukee, b) I don't live in Illinois, and c) the Chicago news is rather annoying for a variety of reasons.

But I watched it last night at 10 to listen to all the boo-hooing from the poor Chicago fans. Sniff, sniff. I know it is ungracious of me to revel in the suffering of others... but MAN was that fun. The anchors couldn't saying things like, "Well, they had a great season, regardless," and "What a great ride while it lasted."

One and done, suckers. One and done.

Dreadful, just dreadful

I reference, of course, the officiating in this past weekend's games. Should you care about other dreadful things, you must go elsewhere. Troy asks the following, "And why do the all-star ref teams end up being the worst ones of all?"

I do not know, Troy, but verily they are. Ye gods did the refs stink up the place this weekend-- on several occassions dramatically altering the games they were overseeing, and in at least two cases nearly costing a team victory. Here's a brief run down:

There were other, less impactful, mistakes, but those six (I discount the Bailey fumble call, as the reviews probably weren't conclusive, and thus the ruling on the field must take precedence-- even though I think it was wrong, and I am sick to my ears of hearing about how great Bailey's play was) are certainly sufficient to judge the quality of refing this weekend as dreadful. The only redeeming fact is that despite the referee blunders, two of the three teams that played better and deserved to win did-- with the exception of New England, who can make a pretty strong case that they would've won their game if not for the guys in the zebra uniforms.

At any rate, I am now a huge Carolina and Pittsburgh fan, as I greatly admire teams that can overcome great adversity and unfair treatment to persevere and win regardless.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dr. King

So many tributes, so little time. Truly, though, the best testament to the man is the man himself-- rewatch his "I have a dream" speech if you haven't seen it in a while, then recommit yourself to doing whatever you can to making that dream a reality.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dark Days Are Coming

No, not politics, not religion-- nothing so ephemeral. Serious stuff here-- the NFL season is almost over! As Tuesday Morning Quarterback notes in this week's entry, only seven-- 7!-- games remain. So enjoy them while you can, football fans. I also really liked this stat from the TMQ column:
Stats of the Week No. 4: Carson Palmer, who played two snaps, had more passing yards than Mark Brunell, who played an entire game. Noted by Tim Lowes.
And since I had such a scintalating performance last week, going an outstanding 2 for 2 on Saturday and doing slightly worse on Sunday, here are my thoughts on this weekend's games:

I know, I know, pretty bold stuff there. Going way out on a limb picking all four home teams, but hey, you can't be afraid to pick the favorite from time to time. I mean, it's easy to pick the underdog, but go with the home favorite-- now that's cutting edge, bay-bee!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In Other News

The Packers hired... umm... who again? Oh yeah, this guy-- anybody ever heard of him? Buehler, Buehler...? No? Hmm.... Seems he had some success in New Orleans before going to San Francisco and presiding over the worst offense in the entire league!

Okay, okay, stay calm. Maybe that last stat is deceiving... yeah, that's it. The 9'ers couldn't have been that dreadful, right? All right, then. Item by item:

Yup, that's pretty impressive. I can definitely see why Ted Thompson wanted this guy! I mean, we undoubtedly needed to improve our number of TFs and Ls, and McCarthy is clearly the guy to do it.

Hold tight-- Mike and Ted's Bogus Journey is about to start!



Hey, I can pull an instapundit every now and again.


Racine answers the challenge

Just yesterday I noted how the Mequon-Thiensville school district was making an effort to take the title of worst school district in the state away from Racine Unified. Talk about stepping up to a challenge! Today comes word that RUSD is, surprise, again waaaaaaaaaaaay short of being able to make ends meet, and is facing a $10.5 million shortfall for the '06-'07 school year.

And what is RUSD school board's answer to this not-exactly-new crisis? Appoint a committee to decide when to hold a referendum and how much to ask the tax payers for THIS time. Of course, RUSD's hands are tied to a large degree by the fact that 85% of their budget is personnel related-- much of it health care and pension benefits for the teachers. Thanks WEAC.

WEAC is the teacher's union here in Wisconsin. The union totally unwilling to budge on having members pay anything, ANYTHING, towards their Rolls Royce of a health care plan. The union spent many millions of dollars getting Jim Doyle elected (perhaps those union dues could've gone toward... oh I don't know... education?), and millions more opposing school choice-- a program parents overwhelmingly support. But I digress. Because of WEAC's intransigence, school district's are hamstrung as more and more of their budgets has to go to pay huge health care benefit costs, leaving less and less money for operations and special activities.

But hey-- Racine has provided the model for the state! Simply form a committee to determine the best way to frame a referendum, because I'm sure the taxpayers won't mind ponying up again. I mean, we'd probably just waste that money on improving our homes or taking a family vacation or paying off our own doctors' bills.

You know-- silly stuff.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mequon-Thiensville Makes a Run at the Title

Of worst school district in the state. At least in terms of being disingenuous, sneaky, and unwilling to listen to their residents' wishes. My own Racine Unified School District still holds that title, and it will be difficult to wrest from them. After all this is a school district that:

Phew. That kind of anger will eat you up inside. Anyway, Mequon-Thiensville. Right. Here's their efforts to take over the title of worst school district in Wisconsin.

I absolutely HATE referendums that are scheduled at times other than normal voting days. They disenfranchise a lot of people and they cost the taxpayers extra money. Plus, they give public agencies, like school districts, the ability to just ignore the results of a previous referendum-- from as little as three months previous-- and to try, try again. And again. And again. Until they get the result they want.

Oddly enough, taxpayers don't get that option. If the tax increase referendum passes, we do not have the option of scheduling a new referendum, or of threatening to close the school district offices if they don't figure out a way to live within their means. We just get to pay. And pay. And pay some more.

That Kind of Anger Will Eat You Up Inside

That's the phrase my college friends often use when one of us goes off on a far-flung tirade against an individual, or occassionally an entire institution or organization. Usually it occurs during a discussion of sports when Player X's name would comes up in conversation, and somebody says something along the lines of, "X? I hate that bastard. I had the 2003 fantasy football title wrapped up until that punk caught for 184 yards in week 12-- and on top of that, he ran for 21 more!" It is then the civic obligation of one of the others of us to say, "Chill out-- that kind of anger will eat you up inside." Maybe you have to be there, but it's funny to us.

Some folks really do have to chill out, though, or the anger will eat them up inside. It is not healthy to be fuming and bitter and, well, angry all the time-- whether you suppress it or vent it. Cynicism appears to be a signficant contributing factor as well.

Which makes me worry about this guy. He seems almost compulsively incapable of making a point without denigrating those who disagree with him, and his "humor" consists entirely of snark, ridicule and sniping from the sidelines. Maybe it's all an act, a premise established to draw in those who feel similarly but don't have the time, energy or creativity to vent their spleen so emphatically. Maybe it is merely venting and helps him to be more tranquil, objective and able to enjoy the rest of his life.

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it is a bit of an object lesson to all of us-- that kind of anger will eat you up inside.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pork Update

If you haven't read this, you should. If it doesn't bother you... I can not help you. If it does bother you, call your Senator and Congressman and tell them your sick to the teeth of the profligate spending occuring in Washington these days. If you happen to live in Oklahoma-- call Senator Coburn and tell him, "Bravo!"


Eugene Kane: Non-Partisan

He was the Jourtinel columnist that was starting a blog to combat rampant partisanship in the blogosphere, remember? I'd have to say he's off to a rough start with that, since one of his recent posts ascribes all the fallout of the Abramoff scandal as being a "Republican scandal, stupid." No acknowledgement that this was just the tip of the iceburg in terms of pork and corruption. No harsh words for any of the Democrats involved, nor for the congressional members unwilling to give back their Abramoff money, many of whom are high ranking Democrats.

It's not a "Republican scandal, stupid," Eugene, it's business as usual in our nation's capitol, and if it benefited Republicans more than Democrats it's because Republicans are currently the majority. It's a 'national disgrace, stupid' would be a more apt label, and if you want to highlight that Abramoff was tighter with the Republicans than the Democrats feel free-- but to claim it as just a Republican scandal would seem... what's the word... oh yes



Another MSM Convert?

Now, granted, Eugene Kane starts out his column about starting his own blog by implying that nobody reads most of them and notes that the Internet is "overrun with blogs." But even he, a thirty-year columnist at the Jourtinel acknowledges that "they are making an impact." One of his stated reasons for starting his blog, Raising Kane, was a "desire to explore this new and exciting form of expression and counteract some of the rabid partisan constituency that wants to dominate the field."

Fair enough-- counteracting rabid partisanship has always been one of my stated goals with my blog as well. Except, though I do come from a conservative viewpoint-- and hopefully acknowledge that-- I try to counteract rabid partisanship from both sides. Eugene, not so much-- at least so far. In his introductory newspaper column decrying the partisanship of so many blogs, Kane sites an active blogging community here in the Milwaukee area, and then moans that some of it is a "byproduct of right-wing talk radio, which makes reading those blogs akin to listening to four hours of our local blowhards rail against liberals...."

No mention of any rabid left-wing blogs in Milwaukee. You know, like this one. Or this one. And, of course, this one. Not that there's anything wrong with those sites-- blogging, as Kane may well discover to his chagrin, tends to pull one towards the ideological extremes-- but it is revealing that Kane only mentions rabid right-wing blogs. And not by name or link, either, just 'trust me, there's lots of 'em.'

Kane then singles out this small blog for having called him names in one small post a year and a half ago. It was "the most surprising blog" he had seen. Er... how many did you actually look at, Eugene-- two? I mean, it's a nice "this is my life" blog-- more of an online journal or diary, that, if the comments are any indication, is read even less often than mine. The owner, Cat, posts about once a week, and the vast majority of the posts are about her efforts to lose weight, her struggles to make her company go, or her love of the Wisconsin Badgers. Late summer and fall of 2004 she increased the quantity of her political posts to several-- maybe because of that election thing? One would've thought that this or this would be more surprising.

But whatever. In an unintended exercise in delicious irony, Kane follows up this paragraph:
It's my humble opinion that the best blogs - like mine at www.jsonline.com/links/raisingkane - don't rant and rave as much as refer readers to interesting stories and commentary from other sources.
with this paragraph:
Blogging is best when it's a clearinghouse for ideas rather than a long-winded exercise in self-congratulatory rhetoric.
Um... like proclaiming your brand new blog one of the best after less than four months of existence? Though in fairness, I guess that exercise in self-congratulatory rhetoric wasn't long-winded.

Kane concludes his column explaining his new blogging presence as, at least in part, a response to a former colleague at the Jourtinel "changing her spots." He never says it, and I don't really know why not, but he means Jessica McBride who used to report for the Jourtinel and has since become a vocal conservative blogger/columnist in Milwaukee, as well a journalist instructor at UW-Milwaukee. Some of the background to that story here and here. Kane's version of the story here.

Anyway-- so far Kane's actual blog has been closer to his ideal of avoiding rabid partisanship (a couple of shots at Bill O'Reilly and Republicans/Abramanoff excepted) than his introductory column in the paper. I'll pop in from time to see how he's doing at the whole blogging thing.


Monday, January 09, 2006

"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy"

Said day was, of course, back in early December. So, why am I bringing up the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 now? Because I went to a Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon this afternoon to discuss the possible transfer of their historic records to the UW-Parkside archives. During that luncheon, one of the ladies read a brief article in their current newsletter regarding the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

And it occured to me that I don't recall hearing anything about that infamous day this year. Nothing, nada, zilch, zip, zero. Meanwhile, the rock radio station I listen to had an entire week's worth of tributes to John Lennon, who was shot on December 8, 1980. Nothing wrong with that-- Lennon is an icon, one of the most talented artists of the 20th century, and it IS a rock station.

But nothing on the bombing of Pearl Harbor? 3435 U.S. Servicemen killed in less than two hours, a day proclaimed to "live in infamy" and if there was coverage of the 64th anniversary (I have to believe there was something on the news or radio or newspaper), I don't recall seeing it. Maybe I was just oblivous, but if not... well, I really worry about the increasingly shorter attention spans of people in our modern world.


Friday, January 06, 2006

On Executive Power

A fascinating post here, by Jonathon Rauch from National Journal. From my perspective, the analysis seems pretty evenhanded and persuasive-- Bush's almost reflexive animosity toward anyone who questions his authority and/or good intentions is a significant character flaw that is damaging his credibility and the country's ability to fully prosecute the war on terror. It's a fine line-- in war, you NEED a strong executive branch... but you also need oversight and, in some cases, restraint on the executive's ability to suspend the normal Constitutional checks and balances on his power.

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Going Along to Get Along

Peggy Noonan has an interesting take on the Abramanoff scandal, and while the steamroller analogy gets rather strained by the end of the piece, her point is dead-on balls accurate (it's an industry term). The Republicans have abandoned any pretense to being the small government party or of being fiscally restrained.

One of the two parties needs to remember that most people don't like taxes and don't like government intrusion into their lives. People hate red tape and being told by their government that the government knows better than they do-- occassionally this is necessary, but even when it is, most people aren't big fans of it. I don't really care which party comes to the realization that the way to win, and win big, in the '06 mid-term elections is to go back to Kennedyesque fiscal constraint if you're the Dems, or Reaganesque fiscal restraint if your the Repubs, but I sure hope one of them comes to their senses.

Much has been made by various pundits and much of the left-side of the blogosphere on the Democrats inability to be an effective "opposition" party-- most of it true and merited. I'll throw this out free to Howard Dean and the Democratic Party-- you want to regain control of congress? Move to the right of the Republicans on fiscal policy (at this point, that isn't very hard, since this congress and this president like to spend like drunken sailors on the first day of shore leave) and watch the "Clinton Republicans" and "Reagan Democrats" flock to your candidates.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nice Game!

Finally a National Championship showdown that actually lived up to the hype. Great game last night-- though I'm glad the bowl games are over. I've been staying up far too late the past few evenings.

Random musings on the Rose Bowl:

Which brings us to the playoff system that will happen and is fun-- the NFL! It will be strange watching the playoffs without the Packers in them (been a while-- we've been spoiled up here in Wisconsin), but there are some great games coming up. My picks this weekend?

Giants over Carolina
Washington over TB
NE over Jax
Cincinatti over Pittsburgh

The smart money is, of course, to take the money line the other way.

A Small Favor

Since Wisconsin, and in particular Milwaukee, is attempting to take the title of Most Corrupt Government away from Chicago, I'm asking you all to kindly take just a minute of your time and help me stuff a virtual ballot box. Perfectly legal, actually. J.J. Ace published a novel in 2005, Judgement Day, and while I did not participate in the writing of that novel, I will, hopefully, be part of future J.J. Ace publications-- so the more awards/kudos/sales the first book gets, the better.

So, please go to http://www.critters.org/predpoll/novelsf.shtml and vote for Judgement Day by J.J. Ace. If you are feeling ambitious, or just reveling in the glory of stuffing a ballot box, have your friends and relatives do the same. All of us connected with J.J. Ace appreciate your efforts.

Should you care to buy the book, please go here. It is quite good-- so buy early and often. Er, same for the voting.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On a Lighter Note

And a very cool one-- how about them Marquette Warriors! I'll admit that while I thought the Badgers could hang with Auburn, and possibly even beat them, I figured Marquette had zero, zilch, nada chance of beating Connecticut. Wow! What a victory for a squad that has been struggling all year to play consistent, high-quality, basketball. They didn't just win, they thumped the Huskies-- ahead by 23 at one point midway through the second half. Congratulations Steve Novak, Tom Crean, and all those not-to-be-intimidated freshmen!

Also-- congrats to Joe Pa and Penn State for grinding out an ugly, yet extraordinarily riveting, victory over Florida State last night in triple overtime. State lost their #1 running back and their best defensive player, and still found a way to get it done. Kudos to both defenses, because that was some of the most ferocious hitting, ball-hawking, beat-you-off-the-line play I've ever seen. Most excellent!

One minor quibble-- could announcers please learn the difference between an end around, reverse and double reverse? Last night Mike Tirico insisted on calling a reverse a double reverse not once, not twice, but three times. It's not that hard a concept-- maybe there should be remedial courses for talking heads with no clue?

I Just Can't Imagine

What it must be like for those poor families in West Virginia. Bad enough to have your loved ones trapped like that, hundreds of feet underground, knowing they're probably dead, but hoping against hope.... But then to be told they're alive, to have that sense of elation, only to have that hope crushed out mere hours later.

I just can't imagine. I know thousands of prayers and well-wishes, including mine, are flowing to those families right now, but still.... Unreal.

Just to get a feel for how surreal, and tragic, the situation was, you can just compare the Journal Sentinel's print version of the story this morning-- which went to press before it was realized that the story was precisely backward-- with the current online story.

Print version:

Bells at a church where relatives had been gathering rang out as family members ran out screaming in jubilation.

Relatives yelled, "They're alive!"

"Miracles happen in West Virginia, and today we got one," said Charlotte Weaver, wife of Jack Weaver, one of the men who had been trapped in the mine."I got scared a lot of times, but I couldn't give up. We have an 11-year-old son, and I couldn't go home and tell him Daddy wasn't coming home."
Oof. Now, she'll have to go home and do precisely that. How do you recover your emotional equilibrium after that awful roller coaster ride?

Here's the story from JSonline, now that the reality of twelve dead and only one alive has registered:
"No one can say anything about that would make anything any better," he said. "Just a horrible situation."

"There was no apology. There was no nothing. It was immediately out the door," said Nick Helms, son of miner Terry Helms.

Chaos broke out in the church and a fight started. About a dozen state troopers and a SWAT team were positioned along the road near the church because police were concerned about violence. Witnesses said one man had to be wrestled to the ground when he lunged for mining officials.

I just can't imagine.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Good Day in Wisconsin Sports

Hey, SEC fans-- especially you annoying Auburn people-- how ya feelin' this morning? Woo...eee! That was a buttwuppin you good 'ole boys took from the too slow, too old-fashioned, too Big Tenish Wisconsin Badgers, huh? 24-10! Thumpety, thump-thump, thumpety, thump-thump look at Calhoun go. I really liked the Badgers in this game-- they were healthy, they were motivated (not too often you get to play in your coach's last game... and it's a GOOD thing), and they had a chip on their shoulder.

Hey Bulls fans-- remember when you used to win close games? Bwahahahah! Bucks win in Chicago, 93-92. Bucks are 11-0 in games decided by 5 points or less, and with eight road wins have already won more games on the road then they did all of last year. The Bulls... bwahahahahaha!

Hey Ted Thompson-- you made the right call... except why in the name of pork futures did you ever give Mike Sherman a two year, $6 million+ extension in the first place, only to fire him five months later? Doh!

Go Bucks!


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